Many people are animal lovers, but few could match the dedication of the late Hollywood comedy writer Sam Simon. Simon, best known as one of the original developers of “The Simpsons,” died in March of 2015. His trust, reportedly worth “several hundred million dollars,” according to a recent story in The Hollywood Reporter, is expected to benefit a host of animal welfare causes, including Simon’s own eponymous foundation that helps rescue dogs.
The couple charged with caring for Simon’s own dog told the Hollywood Reporter that the trust has balked at continuing to pay for his care. Simon reportedly spent over $140,000 per year on the dog’s care. While that sounds like a staggering amount to most people, the Reporter noted the dog has a host of aggression and behavior problems requiring an extensive “medical and therapeutic care regimen.”
Simon’s will named a longtime friend who is also an experienced “canine-aggression trainer” as the dog’s caregiver. The trainer said that several years before his death Simon verbally promised he was “taking care of everything” with respect to the dog’s care. The trainer understood this to mean the Simon trust would continue footing the $140,000 per year bill for ongoing care. Simon’s trustee told the Reporter the trainer demanded a “ludicrous” lump-sum payment of $1.7 million but said she was still looking into the matter.
The Basics of a Pet Trust
Most of us are not in a position to spend $140,000 per year on a dog, troubled or otherwise. But many of us have pets who could outlive us. It is therefore important to consider your pets as part of your estate planning.
As the Simon story illustrates, you can name a caregiver for your pet in your will or trust. Remember, even though you consider your pet a member of the family, as a matter of law they are still personal property. This means if you do not want your pet to pass as part of your residuary estate, you should take care to make a specific bequest to a person who has agreed to assume the responsibility of caring for your animals.
You can also go a step further and establish a “pet trust.” This basically means that you set aside funds in your will or trust for the ongoing care of an animal. A pet trust generally lasts until the death of the last animal alive at the time of your death. In other words, you cannot create an indefinite pet trust. The pet trust itself should name both a caregiver for the animals as well as a trustee to manage any reserved funds. You should also designate alternate beneficiaries to receive any excess funds remaining upon the termination of the pet trust.
If you have any questions regarding a pet trust or any other issue surrounding your will or trust, you should seek assistance from a qualified San Diego estate planning attorney. Contact the Law Office of Scott C. Soady today if you need to speak with someone right away.